Scared to Death volume 2: Malevolence and Mandrake

By Mauricet & Vanholme, with Lee Oaks: colours by Laurent Carpentier and translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978- 1-905460-77-9 (PB Album)

There’s a grand old tradition of scaring, empowering and entertaining kids through carefully crafted horror stories starring junior protagonists, and this occasional series is one of the better modern examples.

Conceived and executed by journalist Virginie Vanholme and youthful yet seasoned illustrator Alain Mauricet, the Mort de Trouille albums launched through Casterman in the year 2000. There have been seven sinister sorties thus far…

Whilst I’ve not been able to find out much about the author, the artist is rather well travelled, having worked for CrossGen, Image and DC in America as well as on a wide variety of features in Europe.

He’s also seen in David Lloyd’s magnificently wonderful digital delight Aces Weekly

Born in 1967, Mauricet originally inherited the comic bug from his parents and, after studying at the Academy of Fine Arts under legendary creator Eddy Paape, began his own career aged 20 at Le Journal de Spirou.

From spot cartoons he graduated to strips, creating superhero parody Cosmic Patrouille with Jean-Louis Janssens and Les Rastafioles with Sergio Salma. Following the aforementioned stateside sojourn, he resumed his Franco-Belgian efforts with the strip under review here, as well as basketball comedy Basket Dunk (with Christophe Cazanove) and Boulard (with Erroc) and others.

He now lives in Brussels, and also designs for computer games whilst working on a more personal graphic enterprise entitled Une Bien Belle Nuance de Rouge

Back in early 2000, though, he was detailing a sequence of spooky yarns starring studious Robin Lavigne, son of an esteemed forensic scientist and boisterous, overly-imaginative, horror-story obsessed Max Mornet: a couple of lads with an infallible instinct for ferreting out the weird and uncanny and increasing dependent – though they’d never admit it – upon the wit and bravery of Robin’s brilliant little sister Sophie

Cinebook’s second translated selection was third French chilling chronicle Mort de Trouille: Maléfice et mandragora: suitably set around All Hallows Eve and posing uniquely terrifying problems for the youthful, trouble-magnets…

It all begins a little before the much-anticipated night with the Elizabeth Simon Secondary School abuzz with worries over missing student Thomas and seemingly simultaneous arrival of oddly-attractive, exotic new student Emma Corpescu. She comes from Romania and Max is strangely antipathic to her at first, but that soon changes…

Robin also feels a bit off as the newcomer blatantly insinuates herself into their lives, paying particular attention to Max. Soon, so-savvy Sophie is paying close attention. Far more so than the idiot boys…

She’s very wise to do so: Emma soon revealed as an ancient shapeshifting sorceress named Malevolence, who steals the youth of boys to restore her own life force and to one day resurrect her dead sister Mandrake

After doing research online, Sophie arms herself with anti-witch tricks and gadgets and, after discovering the incredible fate of Thomas, ultimately convinces her incredulous brother to stalk the wicked enchanter to her lair in Deadwater Swamp to rescue the now missing Max. The poor lad has succumbed to Emma’s wiles and now resides in her lair transformed into the same uncanny form as Thomas…

Arriving just in time, his rescuers are set for an incredible clash of wills and powers – especially Sophie, who’s borrowed a few supernatural forces for the ordeal…

Of course, good triumphs in the end, but can such seductive evil truly die?

Deliciously delivered in the manner of Goosebumps and Scooby-Doo, this is a superb slice of all-ages spooky fun in the classic mould, seamlessly mixing fear with hilarity to enthral and enchant all generations equally.
Original edition © Casterman, 2003 by Mauricet & Vanholme. English translation © 2008 by Cinebook Ltd.